Just Another Guy with Opinions

Valley Club President Explains

Posted by shadmia on July 12, 2009

Jim Crow SignThe Valley ClubValley Swim Club Protesters

Facing domestic, international and political criticism over his decision to expel Black and Hispanic kids from swimming at the Valley Swim Club in Huntingdon Valley, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa., the club president John G. Duesler Jr. faced the cameras in an effort to explain his actions.

“We deeply regret this whole situation,” John Duesler, president of the board of directors of The Valley Club, told reporters Friday afternoon at the entrance to the club in the leafy suburb of Huntingdon Valley.

Duesler said the number of children in the shallow section of the pool, many of them unable to swim, convinced officials that there was a problem. “It was definitely an unsafe situation,” he said. Asked about his previous statement in which he was quoted as saying:

There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.

Duesler admitted that he used “a terrible choice of words” but nonetheless denied that there was any racial context to his statement.

“It was never my intention to imply anything in terms of racial makeup,” he said.

Duesler said meant that having so many children greatly altered the atmosphere of the pool and created an unsafe situation. He said he was uncomfortable with the ratio of children to lifeguards – which was 10-1 when all the children were swimming at once. “It was just too many kids on top of each other,” Duesler told reporters. “Many of them couldn’t swim.

“This is just a terrible misrepresentation of what I said,” he said, with local news media and CNN recording. “This is just so wrong.”

Duesler’s wife, Bernice, who also attended the press conference said:

“Our home has been inundated with thousands of hateful emails, hundreds of horrible phone calls, saying horrible things about my husband and he’s just trying to help out and he is the type of person that takes people for who they are, feels everything can be worked out, and was so thrilled to have these kids come here that it broke our heart that they couldn’t come here, and that’s scary and we don’t know what to say because after the first couple days such horrible things were being said and everything was so one-sided we were afraid to even to say something that we wouldn’t be….”

Despite the news conference, the controversy over the club’s action has been growing more intense. Protesters have been gathering at the swim club daily. Police have been standing by at the scene. One pool member did become confrontational and the protesters say they have endured name-calling and hand gestures — even adults sticking out their tongues to show they aren’t welcome here.

At the request of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (HRC) said they would immediately open an investigation into the actions of The Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley.

“The rule of law in Pennsylvania is equal opportunity for all, regardless of race,” , chairman Stephen A. Glassman said Thursday in a written statement released by his office.

“Allegedly, this group was denied the use of a pool based on their race,” Glassman said. “If the allegations prove to be true, this is illegal discrimination in Pennsylvania.”

Speaking for the Pennsylvania HRC, which has vowed to expedite an investigation after being inundated with calls from all over the country, Shannon Powers said: “It got bumped to the top of the priority list, so were devoting an extraordinary amount of resources to investigating it,” she said. “It’s a matter we would like to see resolved quickly.

A lawsuit has also been filed against the Valley Swim Club in federal court. One of the mothers on the scene told Action News that her angry words aren’t fit for TV, but she is among those who plan to join a class action lawsuit filed Saturday by another mother of four.

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